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Cancelling in church and society



A local event in the United States Catholic Church has recently aroused interest in Australia. A Bishop declared to be invalid (non-existent and without effect) baptisms celebrated over twenty years by a priest of his diocese. As a result people baptised by the priest will have to be properly baptised. Although the issues raised by this event are specific to the Catholic Church it raises broader questions of how any group should respond to behaviour considered deviant.

The story begins with the response in June 2020 by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to a request for clarification. It was asked whether Baptisms in which the celebrant used the formula ‘We baptise you…’ (instead of the prescribed ‘I baptise you…) were invalid (did not count as baptism). If they were invalid, the CDF was asked whether people involved would need to be properly baptised. In 2020 it responded that the baptisms were invalid, and that they would need to receive Baptism in its proper form.

Since baptism is required for the valid reception of other sacraments (e.g. confirmation, marriage and holy orders) these further sacraments are also rendered invalid by a previous invalid baptism.

In January this year Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix Arizona wrote to the Catholics of his Diocese that a priest had in good faith for twenty years used the invalid form ‘we baptise you’. Those affected should approach the Diocese to remedy the effects of their invalid baptism and reception of other sacraments.

In its 2020 response the CDF recognised the pastoral reasons offered for the ‘we baptise you…’ form. It also recognised the shared responsibility of those already baptised for the sacramental life of the Church. It based its rejection of the ‘we baptise…’ formula on the faith that in baptism it is Christ who personally gathers together the Church of which the congregation is part and baptises. Visibly the celebrant performs the ceremony. Invisibly and in reality it is Christ himself who baptises. The celebrant must intend to do as the Church does, which is to celebrate the Sacraments as Christ founded them and as prescribed in the liturgy of the Church. Individuals who modify the Church’s language and fail to say as the visible representative of Christ ‘I baptise you…’ wound the unity of the Church, diminish the activity of Christ in the sacraments, and risk making them invalid.

The CDF rightly understands Christ to be the chief actor in the Sacraments who makes present the universal Church in the local congregation. In this emphasis it draws heavily on St Augustine, who adds weight to any theological conversation.


"If a group of Catholics could so easily and so unintentionally find themselves sharing in invalid sacraments, which of us would be safe? And what care would we need to take to ensure that the sacraments in which we had part were exact in all their words and pure in intention." 


I do not believe, however, that the document makes a compelling case for invalidity. Its argument might provide grounds for describing the practice of baptising using the ‘we baptise you…’ form as illicit — not lawful and so to be discontinued. It does not, however, show that such baptisms are invalid — null and void and so cancelled. My conclusions are based first on the argument of the document itself, and second on the failure of the document to consider adequately the context of the action to which it responded.

In order to demonstrate that using the ‘we baptise…’ formula makes the baptism invalid the document draws on St Augustine’s insistence that Christ is the central actor in the Sacraments. Augustine, however, insisted that it is Christ who baptises in order to justify the validity of the baptism of people who had betrayed the church during persecution and of those baptised by the separationist Donatists. He did not use the principle to underpin arguments that such baptisms were invalid.

In the light of this, one might argue that all the more would he have recognised the validity of the baptisms that were referred to the CDF despite the tampering with the formula indicating the primary celebrant of baptism. In this case there appears to have been good will on all sides, the necessary pouring of water and the invocation of the Holy Trinity, the presence of a local congregation and a desire to incorporate the person baptised in the world-wide body of the Church — a desire that the actions of Donatists and other separatist groups of Augustine’s time failed to honour!

The CDF’s argument that those involved in the baptism under question did not intend to do as the church prescribes ignores the context within which the actions took place. The subsequent docility of the celebrant and community suggests that they did understand themselves as the Church gathered by Christ and in unity with the universal Church. Furthermore, even if the ways in which they expressed that understanding were mistaken, they reflected emphases of contemporary Church teaching. The inclusion of the congregation as celebrants in the baptism, for example, was inspired by the Vatican II emphasis on the active participation of the people in the liturgy.

Although this context does not justify the liturgical innovation, it does suggests that those involved in it were in good faith: overemphasising one aspect of being Church but not separationist, their theology muddled but not heretical, their practice obscuring but not obliterating the significance of baptism. If this is so, then the CDF set far too high the bar separating validity from invalidity. If a group of Catholics could so easily and so unintentionally find themselves sharing in invalid sacraments, which of us would be safe? And what care would we need to take to ensure that the sacraments in which we had part were exact in all their words and pure in intention. This matters because calling into question the validity of people’s baptism, confirmation and marriage encourages a scrupulosity and a suspicion that will divert their attention on to themselves and away from what Christ does among them through the sacraments. If anxiety about validity became general it would fatally affect Catholic life.


"The care taken by the Congregation in dealing with Church issues suggests that also in public life language and symbolic gestures matter."


In handling such situations local church authorities could well reflect on the Canon Law tag Ecclesia supplet (the Church supplies what is lacking), much used — and sometimes abused — by Catholic priests in an older church that placed a stronger emphasis on command and control. In a rule-based Church the tag allowed them to deal with situations where bad behaviour or uncertainty affected the celebration of the sacraments. When discovering, for example, that for some time altar servers, having swigged half the wine bottle, had then topped it up with water to avoid notice, so rendering the wine doubtfully valid for use in the Eucharist, for example, the pastor might appeal to Ecclesia Supplet. In assurance that the Church would supply for any defects, he could then echo Augustine in sorting out the altar servers, while trusting in Christ, the Lord of the Sacraments, that he would not allow a dodgy wine bottle to deprive people retrospectively of participation in Mass and its benefits.

This article has necessarily invited readers into a specifically Catholic conversation. For many it will seem convoluted and about a storm in a teacup. But the story has its parallels in the wider society about how to relate to people and groups who diverge from what we regard as acceptable beliefs or behaviour. The care taken by the Congregation in dealing with Church issues suggests that also in public life language and symbolic gestures matter. They matter because they affirm the higher values of truth and solidarity on which public life rests, and so endorse the naming and rebuking speech and action that contravene these values. The same values of truth and solidarity, however, also dissuade from cancelling people who speak and act, not out of malice, but out of ignorance and unrecognized prejudice. In both church and public life what matters most deeply is trust in the power of their Christian or democratic foundation stories and of the rituals that they embody to accommodate and moderate the malice and muddle inherent in human institutions.


Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: Priest baptises an infant.  (Jane Khomi/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Baptism, Cancel, Catholic Church, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith


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Existing comments

It does seem like a storm in a teacup, and I am a Catholic. It seems odd to me that the queen of England may refer to herself as "we", and yet the priest, speaking in the place of Jesus Himself, may not!

Bill Venables | 24 February 2022  

This is almost comedic save for the tragic implications for those devotees who may feel a desperate fear that they may not be considered "true" Christians. Some may be inconsolable that they partook of sacraments or ceremony without valid grace. Could their later marriage in a Catholic Church be construed invalid in that they'd incorrectly declared their status, even unknowingly? The issue I can interpret is only the priest who spoke the word "We" can know whom that We he implied at the time(s). It'd be easy to assume Andy's Augustine principles or even that the We included the parents and well-wishing witnesses present...but the article doesn't state or define the nature of the We futher than it was uttered, like a dud cheque, apparently but importantly, unacceptably. This is a solemn declaration of some importance; until the priest's intent is clear, which is only known to him, the We is obscure and that statement undefined. I appreciate that it probably seemed trendy to incorporate the congregation as "We" and perhaps that's where this comes unstuck: only a Christian can baptize a Christian. If the well-meaning priest has perhaps unknowingly included un-baptized persons in the We it becomes corrupt, unauthorised. I hope they get their Sunday plate donations cheerfully refunded...

ray | 24 February 2022  

The diversity of the congregation in a Catholic Church is, for me, heart-warming. Where we meet each other is a shared faith in the incarnation of Christ appearing to his people, loving us and teaching us about whose we are. Because of our diversity we do need clear and reliable guidelines in the sacraments. Mishaps happen though and the Church should not be the place where anyone is “cancelled” due to an unintentional (or for that matter an intentional) error. When diversity is not celebrated as something precious then the Church can easily lose the trust and respect of those whose differences Jesus cherished, that is the strangers not accepted as conforming.

Pam | 24 February 2022  

WTF. Out of all the issues that I would hope the church might invest energy and leadership and even empathy on....with the greatest of respect, surely there are more pressing matters today.....

Grahame | 24 February 2022  

God bless you Andrew. At the same time I agree with Grahame. Is the world in such great shape that we can find time to analyse such a question as this?

Jim Jones | 25 February 2022  

The Americans are big on comedy sitcoms in which they consistently demonstrate their abomination of language. This whole episode is a comedy, right?

john frawley | 25 February 2022  

This goes to show that the laity should know their stuff because, obviously, not all priests do. The problem here is that the priest wasn’t a radiantly white, apparitional being with wings. If he was, the parents would have gone straight to the rulebook to check that the angel was saying the right thing.

Are words important? Was Barack Obama sworn in twice in January 2009? Is the ritual cleansing someone of Original Sin and making him or her the sibling of Christ and a child of God less important than one making someone an American president?

roy chen yee | 25 February 2022  

Thank you, Andrew, for this article. I agree and wonder what became of the lesson that I was taught many years ago that in case of the danger of death, I, a layperson, could baptize.
Moreover, I understand that there was a previous ruling from the CDF many years ago that it was a valid baptism if a priest, though poor understanding of Latin, mispronounced the words. The explanation at that time was that the priest had the right intention and so did the recipient. Perhaps someone can comment if what I was told of a previous CDF ruling is true. If so, why was the same reasoning applied to this latest case.

Bob Cullen | 25 February 2022  

As if God would care that the priest used the term "We". And its typical of the Vatican nitpicking over semantics. Its another Vatican pushy power play just like ignoring 12 of the 14 suggestions made by the Royal Commission.
Isaiah 29:13 And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote."

Francis Armstrong | 25 February 2022  

I read up on Thomas Olmstead, the bishop referred to, but not named, in this article and understand him to be what I would see as a hardliner. He is also a canon lawyer and worked in the CDC. There is a joke that a theologian is the one who finds the nonexistent black cat in the totally darkened room the philosopher was looking for. This IMO is what the CDC has done in this case.

Edward Fido | 25 February 2022  

This sort of exactitude - nit-picking perhaps a more accurate term - is one of the reasons many people leave the Church as they mature in understanding of life as lived in the real world. Even the ongoing dependence on St Augustine's interpretation of whatever question arises is hard to stomach, given the much broader ways of interpreting matters of faith, morals, and liturgical practice to be found among today's theologians. Happily the Catholic Church now acknowledges the validity of the Protestant tradition of Christianity. Yet our legalists are unable to acknowledge the validity of baptism conducted by a family group and an ordained priest if he uses the inclusive "we" which surely includes Jesus in the minds of the faithful family, instead of the exclusive "I". The very same legalists blame the secular world for the increase in numbers of people leaving the Church!

Ian Fraser | 25 February 2022  
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‘This sort of exactitude - nit-picking perhaps a more accurate term - is one of the reasons many people leave the Church as they mature in understanding of life as lived in the real world.’

By definition, in order to verify that it is being mature, shouldn’t Maturity ask of itself the simple question of what will be happening to its soul if it stops receiving grace through the means of Confession and Holy Communion? If it knows, how does it know? If it doesn’t, what bases of thought is it using to decide to assume the risk of unknown damage from refusing to participate in those channels of grace?

For Maturity to ask and ensure a satisfactory answer to that question isn’t to be Christian but merely to assure itself that its claim to being mature isn’t mere self-praise.

roy chen yee | 26 February 2022  

At the risk of inciting criticism, really? I get the arguments and language and symbols do matter, but people were baptised in good faith by a priest who acted in good faith even if he used the wrong pronoun. Now some marriages are thrown into question (raising further questions about the status of any children from the marriages), some communions are invalid and what about funerals? Will they have to be re-done? We’re dealing with people's faith and lives here and a bit of sense is needed. Think of it in terms of “what would Jesus do?” and go from there.

If the Victorian Government can rectify the invalid swearing in of over a thousand officers, then it should not be beyond the capacity of the church to find a sensible solution. And on the scale of issues facing the church, this surely cannot be all that high on the list.

Brett | 25 February 2022  
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‘Think of it in terms of “what would Jesus do?”’’

Good question.

As Jesus currently sitting at the right hand of his Father? Or as his employees on Earth who don’t quite have his present ability to move the Universe without lifting a finger?

It is said that God is above his sacraments. The Muslims are more daring. They say that Allah can change his mind as much as he wants but Christians would say that God doesn’t change his mind unless his overarching logic permits him to do that in that circumstance.

As for the hapless employees on the ground, they have to discern his logic as best they can from Scripture and Tradition.

The real actor in this state of play in the continual maintenance of Tradition is the CDF. Olmsted is an apostle but any apostle on his own can be dodgy until confirmed by his brothers, or the CDF as a proxy for his brothers.

This is a great practical example of the importance of saying the right thing because, to God, to say is to create. Mere convenience cannot change Truth and all the presumptuously pious arguments here are really about convenience to humans.

Only Christ baptises. Who else can call the Holy Spirit upon the candidate? The usual modernist academics who would treat this as a joke would be the first to cry plagiarism if someone else passed the academics’ works as their own, intention or honest mistake being no excuse where literary or academic plagiarism, or violation of intellectual property, is concerned. Pick up a book and you’ll see something about the author asserting his or her moral right to be recognised as the originator of the work.

So, why is Christ to be regarded as less in setting the record straight?

roy chen yee | 26 February 2022  

The children of a putative marriage are not illegitimate in canon law.

Bob | 27 February 2022  

Thank you Bob, it's good to know the impact is limited to those actually involved. Thanks also for informing me succinctly without fogging the issue over nine paragraphs.

Brett | 02 March 2022  

'it's good to know the impact is limited to those actually involved.'

Actually it isn't. Laxity in responding to laxity in ritual promotes disrespect for the institution symbolised by the ritual, and the laxity creeps into other institutional areas. No man is an island, etc.

After all, we wouldn't have same-sex marriage today if heterosexuals (including Christian ones) destroyed the sanctity of marriage by embracing divorce (later institutionalised into no-fault divorce) as a more-caring-than-God response to the pastoral problems of couples.

roy chen yee | 04 March 2022  

Thinking further on your point Bob, if the children of a putative marriage are not illegitimate, then perhaps the people who participated in what we could call a putative baptism should be regarded as baptised.

Jesus did instruct the disciples not to put barriers in the way of children coming to him. We should learn from that.

Brett | 09 March 2022  

The sins of the Father! Was the intention to deceive there? Absolutely not.

I always thought Jesus railed against the pedantry of the Pharisees. How is this decision by the CDF any different?

Erik Hoekstra | 25 February 2022  

Andrew is not alone in doubting the strength of the arguments advanced by the CDF in relation to their findings on baptismal invalidity, August 2020. The issue has been well canvassed in European theological circles by systematic and liturgical theologians and canon lawyers.
Moreover, since the Council of Florence's response to the Armenian Rite, 1439, the Catholic Church has explicitly recognised a variation to the 'I Baptise...' formula. This recognition of alternate formula became more widespread with the agreements with Orthodox Churches after Vatican II. Not long afterwards, agreements with numerous Protestant churches inaugurated a reciprocal recognition of baptismal validity: in all cases the critical point of agreement involved the invocation of the Trinitarian formula.
The CDF's judgement, as it currently reads, not only calls into question the validity of baptisms and subsequent sacramental encounters for Catholics caught up in the 'We' formula but questions the sacramentality of marriages contracted between Catholics and Christians of other Churches who retain the Trinitarian formula but may have been unfazed by the substitution of We for I in their baptismal liturgies. As further cracks appear in the CDF's doctrinal note, and the scale of the problem becomes known, a revised view cancelling 'invalidity' in favour of 'illicit actions' is likely.

Bill Burke | 25 February 2022  

Thank you Andrew. Your explanation of the need to take into account both the context and the intention of the priest in question make sense. As far as I am concerned, and I doubt I’m alone in this, Catholics with an ounce of faith and common sense will shrug their shoulders about such a pronouncement by the CDF. Our faith is not so much in a theology of “a church supplying what is missing” but in a loving, infinite God who reads the hearts and minds. If you want to get Augustinian why not “Trust God, and do what you will.”

Ernest Azzopardi | 25 February 2022  

I find it sad that grown (church) men can waste their time on trivia such as this. How can the average catholic take the church seriously when its officials promulgate decisions such as this?

Mal Nolan | 25 February 2022  

A lot of interplay here between 'lex orandi' (the right way of prayerfully celebrating) and 'lex credendi' (the right way of seeking to understand theologically). When we read Mt 25 we can see the priority of 'lex agendi' which might have been put to all those affected by the 'We' baptisms.

Noel McMaster | 25 February 2022  

As word and action are equally necessary in sacraments, for future reference surely the problems raised could be avoided by the celebrant adhering to the approved common formula which encompasses and respects the emphasis on the person of Christ as the chief agent of the sacrament and its ecclesial universality? Sacraments in the life of the visible Church are too important to be left to individual or local group theological preference. Liturgical "diversity", as some commentators above indicate, has limits if it is to be reconciled with unity.

John RD | 26 February 2022  
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Gallant that you have come in to even the score, as it were, on so uneven a battlefield! II wonder if the good Catholics of the Diocese of Phoenix will be mollified by the distinction you draw between 'unity' and inclusion, when 'diversity' was never mentioned in the article?

Michael Furtado | 03 March 2022  

Aagh! Correction CDF for CDC in my post. Perhaps the luminaries there should be advised what common sense is and how to apply it?

Edward Fido | 26 February 2022  
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Edward, my friend... not that I disagree with your sentiments but perhaps I can encourage you to examine the actions of the CDF in light of a different scenario: the acceptability of We. Court witnesses are generally required to take the Oath "I swear to tell the truth (etc)..." or make an affirmation; it is widely accepted the oath carries more weight than an affirmation. The Oath is generally followed with "so help me, God.", enlisting that God will help the witness in veracity. Try getting away with saying "We swear to tell the truth..." I can't imagine any judge or magistrate allowing evidence to proceed on the basis of "We", even if God is agreed to be part of the activity. Similarly, the priest has operated outside of accepted practice, albeit with good intentions... Is a tea cup really a tea cup if you only have coffee in it...or storms?

ray | 26 February 2022  

Yet the Church still recognises as valid the baptism of persons in other Christian churches regardless of the syntax, so long as baptism is conferred in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Michael | 26 February 2022  

I feel less sympathetic for the priest concerned than most commentators. I agree that it was not obvious that the consequence of this liturgical flight of fancy would be invalidity rather than mere illegality, but I still have no sympathy. Why? I do not agree that the change was made in good faith. Instead, I consider that the innovation, as with so many other innovations and liberties, were taken by a narcissist adopting the essentially narcissistic and self worship dogma of the reformation. It was a choice to make it up as he went along. To elevate his own judgment above that of the Church with all its wisdom and antiquity. Just as the modern liturgical posture has led to the celebrant at the Mass being a performer, this priest was trying to entertain and seek kudos for being so innovative. Follow the text and the rubrics and these things will not happen. Celebrate the Mass ad orientem and you will be praying with the people and not at them.

Bob | 27 February 2022  
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We have it on the Bishop's authority that the words were employed 'in good faith'. Are you saying that you have the right to contradict the canonical authority of a Bishop, rather than simply to disagree with him?

Think carefully before you answer and please include your surname, as I intend to forward your reply to both the Bishop and the CDC, given the diagnostic language and prognosis that you assert.

While you're about it, please tell us what your qualifications are to diagnose narcissism in another person. Thanks.

Michael Furtado | 03 March 2022  

I do MF have the right to question and contradict the canonical authority of a Bishop. My surname is Armstrong. My address is available on FB. Narcissism is a condition that many members of the church's hierarchical authority suffer from. Easily identifiable as they spend hours gazing admiringly into their gilded mirrors. They also shut their eyes and ears to the truth.

Francis Armstrong | 10 March 2022  

‘We have it on the Bishop's authority that the words were employed 'in good faith'.’
It’s nice that you believe Cardinal Pell. Cardinals have more authority than bishops.

‘Bishop's authority…right to contradict the canonical authority of a Bishop….’
A belief about Father Andres’ state of mind is not a canonical but an empirical matter.

‘please tell us what your qualifications are to diagnose narcissism in another person.’
The same as your qualifications to deem another person in such error as to need your prayers?

roy chen yee | 10 March 2022  

Ray's comment, 26 Feb, goes to the nub of the CDF's position – the problem is 'We'.
The CDF argues that using 'We' in the baptismal formula radically reinterprets the sacramental action. For the CDF it is essential 'When the minister says “I baptize you…” he does not speak as a functionary who carries out a role entrusted to him, but he enacts ministerially the sign-presence of Christ...' To alter the 'I' for 'We' in the judgement of the CDF constitutes a wound '...inflicted upon the ecclesial communion and the identifiability of Christ’s action, and in the most grave cases rendering invalid the Sacrament itself...'
Given the personal disquiet this judgement has accorded to many believers, it is worth putting forward a consideration which may encourage the CDF to reconsider whether the nominated abuse is of such a grave order as to render sacramental actions invalid.
I noted in an early comment that the Council of Florence had accepted the wording of the Armenian Rite's baptismal formula as a valid baptismal formula - in the full knowledge that this formula makes no use of an initiating pronoun. However the formula is clear in proclaiming that the act of baptising is done in the name of the Persons of the Trinity.
In so doing, the Armenian ritual rests on the ancient practice of the Eastern Churches. Referring to these Churches as 'the Greeks,' Aquinas provides a telling commentary: 'The Greeks, however, do not attribute the act of baptising to the minister...They use the form: "May the servant of Christ, N... be baptised in the name of the Father," etc. And since the action performed by the minister is expressed with the invocation of the Trinity, the sacrament is validly conferred.' [ST III, Q 66 ]
But it is the coda that Aquinas attaches to this citation that is of critical significance. He concludes 'As to the addition of "Ego" in our form, it is not essential; but it is added in order to lay greater stress on the intention'.
In forming its judgement of invalidity, it is encumbent on the CDF to explain the grounds which led it to ignore the Latin Church's stated respect for the Eastern Churches baptismal formula. Secondly, it needs to point to the occasion when Aquinas' teaching on the standing of the 'I' in the Latin formula had been set aside as being an error of such magnitude that if acted upon would render any baptismal action invalid.

Bill Burke | 27 February 2022  
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This appears to be what you are using. But, in P(3)- Q(66)- A(5)- RO(4), St. Thomas Aquinas says, ‘Several cannot baptize one at the same time’, giving the example that two priests, one mute but with the use of his hands, and the other with voice but unable to use his hands, can’t cooperate to baptise. A priest baptises alone.

‘They use the form: "May the servant of Christ, N... be baptised in the name of the Father," etc.’

Is the ‘Greek’ ritual valid? Orthodox priests are not in persona Christi but in persona Ecclesiae. The Catholic Church possesses the fullest measure of the truth that has been revealed. Because it knows its priests are meant to be in persona Christi, it is bound by its understanding to insist that the priest says, ‘I baptise’. The Orthodox Church has a lesser understanding of priesthood and its ritual wording, ‘May’, is supplicatory, not executory. The priest in the person of the Orthodox Church asks Christ in the name of the Trinity to send the Spirit. If that is the best Orthodoxy or Reformation Christianity, within the limits of their understanding as to the nature of the priest, can do, why shouldn’t their request be met for the spiritual nourishment of their sheep?

Can the Catholic Church allow a lesser standard for baptism by Orthodoxy or the ‘separated brethren’, while insisting upon stringency for itself? Christ permitted the disciples to nourish themselves with grain on the Sabbath. Did he do so himself?

roy chen yee | 28 February 2022  

Mt 20: 1 - 16 would suggest Jesus had a one size fits all approach.

Bill Burke | 01 March 2022  

You mean like Matthew 22:1-14?

roy chen yee | 03 March 2022  

Nice that you know your Aquinas, Bill, but it doesn't erase the comedic theatricality of the angels and pinhead absurdity. What Andy has exposed is a case of 'aemulator existens paternarum in extremis'. I, for one, sincerely hope that Fr Sosa will write to him congratulating him for doing so.

Michael Furtado | 03 March 2022  

‘comedic theatricality of the angels and pinhead absurdity’

All reality, intangible and tangible, comes from the same source (or Source). It is arguably vain (and futile) to perform some Psalm 1-like scoffing at the relationship between an intangible such as an angel and a tangible such as a hard ceramic or metal surface when an intangible called the Holy Spirit lives inside a tangible such as a human being, or an intangible such as a demon can live inside a tangible such as a human as well as a tangible such as a pig, in fact, a ‘legion’ sequestered inside one human and ‘distributed’ in some way in a herd, although Scripture doesn’t say how the distribution occurs. However, distribution is distribution, and a distribution in a herd and a distribution on a pinhead are the same idea.

So much for intangible reality. In the depths of subatomic physics, a tangible reality because it can be monitored by instruments, is something which Einstein called ‘spooky entanglement’ but which physicists in general call entanglement, in which ‘matter’ even below the stage of being ‘particles’ seems, in one location, to know, influence or be influenced by what ‘matter’ in another and quite distant location is doing.

The linkage continues because what the above quote of ‘comedic…absurdity’ does is link in one mind the Psalm 1-like scoffing of an intangible reality such as the spiritual realm with ignorance of the existence of mysteries within the tangible reality of the material realm of subatomic physics.

Can 1+1=1? Does Scoffing added to Ignorance equal Ignorance?

roy chen yee | 12 March 2022  

Lets look at the CDF.
In 1593, Bruno was tried for heresy by the Roman Inquisition on charges of denial of several core Catholic doctrines, including eternal damnation, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, and transubstantiation. Bruno's pantheism was not taken lightly by the church, nor was his teaching of the transmigration of the soul (reincarnation). The Inquisition found him guilty, and he was burned at the stake in Rome's Campo de' Fiori in 1600. (wikipedia)

Bruno had his jaw nailed shut and was dragged through Rome in chains before suffering a hideous death.

The CDF is the current name for the former Roman Catholic Inquisition.
Bruno is worth noting as a significant Dominican, not only for the tragic death he suffered at the hands of the Inquisition, CDF, but also for his tenacity and questioning of unorthodox ideas (including the quaint notion that the earth revolved around the sun), at a time when both the Roman Catholic and Reformed churches were reaffirming rigid preconceived principles in their quest for the evangelization of Europe. The CDF got it wrong then and they've got it wrong now.
Why anyone would blindly accept their puerile edicts is a mystery.

Francis Armstrong | 01 March 2022  

I am grateful for Bill Burke's post on Aquinas' position on the Eastern Church's formulary for Baptism. Eastern Church formularies, as also in Confession, are more impersonal than Latin ones and assume that the priest is acting in loco Christi and in concert with the Church He founded. Saying this, I would consider all these baptisms valid. It seems bizarre, if the priest was deemed to be acting incorrectly, why it took 20 years to pick up. I am not a Canon Lawyer, but I wonder if there is somewhere further this decision can be appealed against? I also wonder how on earth Church authorities will go back and search the further sacramental progress of those who the CDF has deemed 'not baptised'. Surely these people would now merit remedial action? This is rapidly becoming farcical. You now have people 'unbaptised'; 'unconfirmed' and 'unmarried'. Legally the people will be married according to Civil Law, as I understand Marriage Law in the USA is similar to Australia. This whole situation makes the Church appear ludicrous. It is deplorable.

Edward Fido | 28 February 2022  
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Good to be on the same page, Edward - especially on a just and true cause.
You mentioned the option of appeal - and you are in the ballpark. Given the standing of the Sacraments as being of Divine Origin, the last word would come from the Pope, or the Pope with an ecumenical council. So, it's worth recalling that the CDF judgement is a significant opinion but is capable of being set aside - as has happened to a number of past opinions of the CDF and/or its progenitor, the Holy Office. Doubtless this accounts for why the overwhelming majority of diocesan bishops have noted it, filed it and failed to launch an exhaustive audit of the baptismal practices of their clergy.

Bill Burke | 01 March 2022  

You've nailed it in one brief hit, Michael.

john frawley | 28 February 2022  

This story has come up in my Facebook feed a number of times in recent weeks. I even lost a Facebook friend over it. I made a throwaway comment online that I thought invalidating the baptisms was silly legalism and my friend took exception. He seemed to interpret from my comment on this ‘Pronoungate’ event that I thought I knew more than the CDF and was being uppity. I have great respect for the CDF and listen to its pronouncements attentively. I do not accept them all, nor obey them all, though. But I do attend and I consider and my conscience is informed by the Church and its Council. Yet, our informed consciences must ultimately be our own. Without our own consciences, who or what are we? Even the CDF - ultimately - agrees with me there. ... Back to the story: long story short, my Facebook friend and I are no more over these pronouns. Pity, because I liked him and thought he was a moderate, like me. ... It does seem an odd thing to lose a friendship over, even a virtual one!

Brenda | 28 February 2022  

Andrew, Surely as there was no intention to do the wrong thing by the celebrant with the Baptisms involved, surely if his intention was to Baptise in the name of Christ that is sufficient. It is not necessary to stir up all the people who were acting in good faith at these baptism. It is a bit like the consecration of the sacred hosts left on the credence table. If his intention was to consecrate them, then he has. My view is what a complete overreaction occurred on this matter.

Denis Ryan | 02 March 2022  

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